Magazine Cites ‘Innovative’ Nonprofits

Fast Company magazine has released a list of what it calls the top 10 most innovative nonprofits. In the opinion of the magazine’s editors, organizations on the list lead the way in technology use, scope or best practices. The Foundation for Detroit’s Future landed the top spot on the list by virtue of its grandiose vision: saving a city and its art.

“Some philanthropists make big donations to find a cure for a disease or to help poor children overseas. But what if not-for-profits and some companies could save an entire city?,” wrote the article’s authors.

It should come as a surprise to no one that the ALS Association is featured prominently. The only surprise might be that it was second on the list, and not number one, “for taking a wacky idea and running with it.” The organization’s massively viral Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million this past summer, and allowed the ALS Association to recently put $21.7 million toward research.

Coming in at number three was The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for tackling an issue plaguing most of the world but that gets little attention from the nonprofit sector: cybersecurity. The foundation has pledged $65 million to address cybersecurity, including $15 million each to Stanford, MIT and University of California-Berkeley to create academic programs “aimed at protecting governments, individuals and businesses from hackers.”

Seeding Labs, number four on Fast Company’s list, skips the middlemen and delivers lab equipment directly to overseas scientists. The organization has provided $2.2 million worth of equipment to scientists in 23 countries, and entered into a $3 million partnership with USAID.

Rounding out the top five is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, making the list for its holistic vision of health care. RWJF’s new approach looks to address the causes of poor health, such as poverty and food security, instead of just the symptoms, i.e. chronic disease.

Other nonprofits on the list include:

  • The Rockefeller Foundation: “For making a science out of giving.” This organization employs its own intelligence unit to scout needs, see where it can help, and develop pilot projects with an eye toward expansion.
  • Acumen: “For finding a cost-effective way to evaluate its work.” Acumen’s Lead Data Initiative used mobile data collection tools to measure the impact of grantees in India and Africa.
  • Direct Relief: “For using interactive mapping to fight Ebola.” Mapping Ebola allowed Direct Relief to not only track where the organization has been sending aid but also to monitor the disease’s spread.
  • The Howard G. Buffett Foundation: “For fighting conflict by battling poverty.” Buffett believes that hunger and conflict feed off one another, so his organization has programs to support farmers in Africa and South America.
  • Girl Scouts of the USA: “For showing girls technology is about more than texting.” With the launch of Digital Cookie, GSUSA could be the first organization with an e-commerce site run entirely by girls. It teaches them online marketing and management while providing customers with much-needed Thin Mints.